|Youth at the heart of Central|
|October 01, 2015 Frank Marquez|
Photo courtesy of Ed Saunders - The Central Church’s Sunday school class in 1958, held in the basement of what became the recently razed Lane Auction House. Some of the children in the photo are Ed Saunders and his sister Evelyn in the second row from left. Dee Miller sits near the stove. The McClannahan brothers are first from the left in the front row. Mary Maupin is in the front row, on the far right. Her purse resembles a Japanese lantern.
Parishioners of Gering Central Church of Christ joined with others in the community to officially celebrate 125 years of worship on Sept. 19-20.
Since its inception, the church has focused on teaching the Bible, its youth, and providing for mission work.
Present Senior Minister Lyle Hinebauch has led the church since his arrival to Gering in 2006. He lives with his wife Caryn, who works at Oregon Trail Eye Center, his fifth grade son Jared, and first grade daughter Ashtyn, who both attend the Community Christian School in Scottsbluff.
Next to the Gering United Methodist Church, Central is the city’s oldest church and maintains a steady following. On any given Sunday, Hinebauch said he preaches to anywhere from 275 to 300 followers. Adding to those numbers, the church has received 10 new families since September.
Relatively new to the congregation, Brad and Aggie Collopy have attended the church for three years as of September.
Brad, who is the owner of Collopy Performance & Machine, said: “We like idea of going to (Central) church because of its program for children. My wife (Aggie) was more instrumental in going there because she liked what the church has going on there.” Although they have four grown children, Brad said he believed the youth to represent the church’s future, and they see that as a promising future.
On the other end of the spectrum, long-time members Lester and Gloria Thompson have attended Central since 1960, when they first moved to Gering. By spring of that year, Les had started farming for Cleo Gering, the great-grandson of Martin Gering, for whom the town was named, and who also attended Central when it was known as the Gering Christian Church.
“We attended the church because we were Christians. And, because it was better than going all the way to Scottsbluff,” Gloria said.
The Thompsons added that previous pastor, Thomas “Pete” Jones and his wife Wanda, who had ministered to the church for 14 years moved to New Mexico. “He was not relating to the young people in the way we wanted him to. Our present pastor does a good job of that,” said Les, who serves as a greeter at Central because somebody needed to do the job.
Hinebauch, who cuts an imposing figure at 6-foot-5 and played high school basketball, said the church, which houses a full-court gymnasium, is unique in how it has focused on attracting youth. “We have a 3-on-3 league that meets every Sunday night,” he said. It’s one of the reasons the church employs full-time Youth Minister Charles Gwynn, and his wife Autumn, who serves as the part-time youth director.
Hinebauch and Gwynn both grew up in Havre, Mont., and he says Gwynn is the reason he came here. In the 90s, both attended the Summit Christian College, formerly the Platte Valley Bible College, which receives support from Central.
“I was familiar with the church when I was at Bible College,” Hinbauch said. “In 2006, the church was looking for a senior minister, so that’s how I came to Gering.”
Charles had already joined the staff in 2004.
“Central has always had good youth emphasis. Even today, it is not uncommon to see 40 to 50 high school and junior high kids come out to the court on Wednesday nights,” Hinebauch said.
Prior to arriving at its present location, the church held its first service at 1245 Five Rocks Road (21st Street) and M Street on June 31, 1971, and its congregation has gathered there ever since.
The first ever meeting of church members took place at A.B. Wood’s home on April 11, 1890, and was officiated by the church’s first pastor, Oran Slafter. In 1890, the group was then known as the Gering Christian Church.
The first permanent meeting place was established on two lots, where the Scotts Bluff County Courthouse now stands, and was dedicated on March 20, 1903. The bungalow building, where church members met, was then moved from the courthouse block to the corner of 11th and P streets in 1923. A new building there was dedicated on Oct. 27, 1935, and later became the Lane Auction House, which was demolished in February 2016.
“A unique building in that era, it was one of the very few church buildings with a gym in it, which leads us to believe the leadership back then had the same mindset as we do now,” Hinebauch said. “It was their desire to have a facility to be attractive to reaching youth.”
Gloria Thompson said she liked the old building, “because there was an apartment in the back for visiting missionary families. Now, in the new church, missionaries are invited to stay in church member’s homes when they come.” According to the Thompsons, the church supports several missions including in New Delhi, Hong Kong, Jamaica, and the Asia Pacific. The church also supports Pine Haven, a Christian Children’s Ranch and School in St. Ignatius, Mont., where the school sits on a donated expanse of land and keeps a long list of troubled kids’ names from across the country waiting to get in. The kids learn how to, among other things, raise cattle and hunt and fish in an effort to teach them to be self-sufficient and responsible.
A mark of endurance, in 1970, the congregation moved to its present site, where every October, the church hosts several fundraisers throughout the month to support its missions. “Everybody donates something, and the items are sold through silent auction. I make sweatshirts using sequin and beads,” Gloria said, holding up a Cornhusker T-shirt with an old style map of the state. “The big items are sold at a larger auction, including pies,” said Gloria, whose specialty is baking S’mores pies.
Although the annals do not formally say, the Gering Christian Church may have changed its name when the Howard and Virginia Roseberry family took over the ministry in 1957. In 1960, the name was formally known as Central Church of Christ.
For more information, contact Hinebauch at 308-672-1795 or visit www.geringcentralchurch.org.
Courtesy photo - Members of Central Church of Christ met in this building for more than 47 years from 1923 until 1970.
Photo by Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen - Members of Central Church of Christ held their first service at 1245 Five Rocks Road (21st Street) and M Street on June 31, 1971. Like the former church at 11th and P streets across the street from the post office, it housed a gymnasium.